The Asian elephant is almost extinct. There are only 5-6,000 of these magnificent creatures left in Thailand today, whereas a century ago there were 100,000 chang roaming the forests.

There is an organization called Friends of the Asian Elephant, which is doing everything it can to help and preserve the elephants of Thailand. A very remarkable and courageous woman named Soraida Salwala runs the FAE.

Soraida was drawn to help the elephants while reading about two young pachyderms that had fallen off a cliff in Khao Yai in 1987. One died, but the other languished at the bottom of a cliff with a broken leg. She was astonished that although Thais professed to love their elephants no one would to do anything to raise the necessary equipment and transport to save the elephant. Eight other elephants fell off the same cliff in 1992 and this furthered angered Soraida. Spurred on by news of a joint Russian-American team to save whales trapped in the ice, Soraida formed the FAE to help protect the chang.

Yet for all Soraida’s good work she has received death threats, as has her most famous elephant, Motala, the chang that stepped on a land mine. This is a ridiculous act by silly, petty people but nonetheless it makes Soraida’s job a lot tougher.

As AP Bureau Chief, Denis Gray says, “This is criminal and stupid.” So if there is anything you can do to help Khun Soraida and her charges, please contact the FAE (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone: 66 02 509-1200). You’ll be helping to preserve an incredibly important part of Thai history.

It is also important to realize that with the banning of logging, many elephants are out of work. And although this is a good thing for their health (as many elephants pulling logging detail these days are force fed amphetamines, which shortens their lifespan), there is nonetheless the problem of what to do with them? Which is why you see so many being led through the streets of the city by their mahouts.

That is why good elephant camps like the Maetang (featured in this issue) are so important. They take the elephants away from logging and off the streets, where they are subject to traffic and manholes, and give them some dignity and care in the wilds of Thailand.


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